TOM WILLIAMS REAL ESTATE AGENT, FATHER OF STORM, 5 , AND SLOANE, 3
“My advice to any new father is to just be there. When my kids were very young, I was aware that my role was to be more the support act, while my wife, Rachel, was the main headliner. While it was stressful for me to see her having to bear a lot of it, I could still get bottles or medicine or change nappies or do bath time. You do whatever you can to help out. If Rachel was feeding, I could still make her a cup of tea. When Sloane was born I had a few days off, but I was presenting The Daily Edition at the time. In the media, you don’t want to leave your job for too long or they’ll get somebody else to do it! But the nature of those work hours and the time slot meant I could spend the morning with Rachel and the girls, go in, shoot the show, then come back and tend to the family in time for the evening shifts. I was lucky, but if I could have taken more time off it would definitely have made a difference to the family. When you’re at home all the time, you get a far better appreciation and understanding for what is happening behind the scenes. You learn that it’s not easy. I think any man would benefit from taking extended leave.”
NATHAN ROSS FORMER NRL PLAYER, FATHER OF ZIAH, 5, AND WILLOW, 2
“When the baby arrives, it’s important that the father can get leave from work and spend as much time as he can with his family. Parental leave needs to be more readily available. When Willow was born, I was playing professional league and had to go back to training the next day! Within our agreement there was meant to be a period you could take off, but the coaches and club didn’t like you taking that time away from the team. I’ve just retired from league due to injuries and my partner is opening up a hair salon, so I’m doing some of the day-to-day running of the kids’ lives. Spending more time at home, I’ve bonded with them. When they’re being a bit sookie, they call out for me rather than their mum – the playing field is levelling out. My son even said to my partner recently: “I love Dad more now, he’s home a lot more and plays with me.” That broke my heart and it does make you think. I wish I’d had more time."
STEVE “COMMANDO” WILLIS PERSONAL TRAINER/TV PRESENTER, FATHER OF BRIANNA, 20 , ELLA, 11, JACK, 7, AND AXEL, 3
“Twenty years ago, fathers were one step removed from family life, because we were so entrenched in our roles as breadwinners. While it wasn’t intentional, we probably got a bit distanced from the emotional side of our beings. When Brianna was born, I was in the army and went straight back to work. It was just nose to the grindstone. Today, there’s been a big shift. Fathers recognise the importance of being there for their kids and nurturing them. When Axel was born, I was working for myself, so I had the opportunity to spend quality time with him and provide more support for [my partner] Michelle [Bridges]. Axel was her first child, so she was dealing with uncertainty. Doing things together helped us to manage those fears. It was just what needed to be done. Taking time off to spend that initial period of time with your little one is so important, and it reinforces the bond. I really enjoyed it, too. If parental leave is available then dads should definitely take it. Having children is a big responsibility, as we’re accountable for their wellbeing. In order to do that, nothing beats connection and interaction – you can’t do that from a desk.”
GYTON GRANTLEY ACTOR, FATHER OF ROCCO, 3, AND SOHI, 3 MONTHS
“Our son Rocco was born early, at 35 weeks, and was placed in the special care ward. It was a traumatic time. I wasn’t working in a production, which was fortunate, as it was important [that] I could be there as an emotional support for [my wife] Alex. Sohi was born on May 2. I’m now performing in the Harry Potter stage production and I’m contracted for a year, so I have regular hours and a regular schedule. While they don’t grant paternal leave, we do get four weeks of annual leave, so I took two weeks of that leave to be at home. I’m grateful to have been able to be around for that time as I’m aware of how exhausted my wife is. At the moment, I’m doing a matinee and an evening show for Harry Potter, but I don’t have to get up every two hours and breastfeed the baby in the middle of the night. Right now, it’s all about us checking in and being there for each other.
MICHAEL “WIPPA” WIPFLI RADIO PRESENTER, FATHER OF TED, 4 , AND JACK, 3
“When you’ve just had a kid, you’re living in a haze a lot of the time. It’s exhausting, and a sensitive time. Postnatal depression can slip in easily when people are so tired – my wife Lisa had it after Jack. A lot of mums think they should be able to do everything themselves, and if they’re not getting it all right, then they’re failing. Luckily, we came to terms with that very quickly and thought, ‘Well, why wouldn’t we get somebody that knows a hell of a lot more than us to help out?’ The saying that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is 100 per cent true. I took off a week after the boys were born. I’m lucky in this job that the on-air role was three hours and then I could get home by 9:30am and help out for the rest of the day, so Lisa could get the sleep required. Working in radio is easy compared to looking after kids – it’s twice as hard at home.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of marie claire.